U.S. passes bill to help Taiwan get WHA observer status

Washington-The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that directs the U.S. secretary of state to help Taiwan regain observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO) and increased reporting requirements.

The bill noted that the 108th U.S. Congress passed legislation (in 2004) directing the secretary of state to establish a strategy for, and to report annually to Congress on, efforts to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the WHA.

With the help of U.S. efforts and better relations with China, Taiwan received invitations to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the WHO, as an observer from 2009 to 2016.

But China took a hard line on cross-Taiwan Strait relations after the Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office in May 2016, and blocked the WHO's invitation to Taiwan to attend the WHA in 2017.

The new House bill, which now has to be passed by the Senate to become law, asks that the U.S. secretary of state help Taiwan regain WHA observer status and adds reporting responsibilities to existing law.

The U.S. secretary of state is currently required to report annually on the efforts the U.S. has made to encourage WHO member states to promote Taiwan's bid to obtain observer status and the steps that will be taken to help Taiwan to get observer status at the next WHA meeting.

The new bill also requires the report to cover changes and improvements made to the U.S. plan to endorse and obtain observer status for Taiwan at the WHA after any WHA meetings at which Taiwan did not get observer status.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. House passed the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages visits by officials at all levels between the United States and Taiwan.

Applauding the House passage of the two bills, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said they sent a strong message of support for Taiwan.

Taiwan's representative office in the U.S. expressed gratitude to Congress for the goodwill and high level of support it has shown Taiwan during the legislative process.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel